Writing about beauty for a living incorporates so many things—body image, self-love, wellness, mental health, and confidence, among others like makeup, skincare, and hair. It also means finding a balance between topics you think readers should be looking for and the ones you know they're actually searching for. Naturally, "summer weight loss" stories are par for the course. And while we always make sure our fitness and health pieces come from a place rooted in self-love and feel-good choices, "how to lose weight" will always be a subject that resonates.
And that's fine, I suppose. Only, authoring such articles becomes a bit muddier because I'm in eating disorder recovery. In order to be good at my job, I needed to learn how to reconcile the two, to use my personal experience as a way to thoughtfully serve our readers (and myself) with the information they want, but from a different, more therapeutic perspective.
At first, I'd sort of turn my brain off as I asked personal trainers for waist-whittling workouts and offered advice that felt clinical. And trust me, it's not that I don't believe those pieces have a place. But it wasn't until after publishing them that I realized I was neglecting my own intimacy with the topic. I'm not someone who has been unaffected by such discourse in the past, and I wasn't going to swallow my struggle in order to write them. I had to start writing for the person going through a battle, the one who wants to be mindful of their health choices but can be triggered by negative language.
I made an active choice to pitch and write stories that incorporate my personal perspective. I would have given anything for someone to do that when I was endlessly searching "weight-loss secrets" as a teenager or buying illegal diet pills online in college. It's cathartic for me just as much as it is helpful for whoever may stumble upon it—forming the darkness into words so I can set it free.
I began writing about how practicing self-love caused me to gain 10 pounds. It's far less tidy to engage in a conversation about my current struggle—with ends left untied and no pretty, body-positive bow wrapped around my sentiments. But it's important and it's real. Then I asked my mother to write about her experience with my eating disorder and how loved ones are affected too. I started to unpack how I’m at this place in recovery where I’m worried about falling backward. I don’t want to watch my progress fall through my fingers or stagnate and regress.
But I also want to feel okay about the desire to change my body if I so choose. At this point, the goal is to keep health at the forefront of both my mind and my writing. So I got tips for happiness from a popular fitness expert rather than tricks to lose weight fast. I tested all-natural de-bloating foods, supplements, and products to take the focus away from the scale. I researched eight reasons to work out that aren't patriarchal beauty standards. Then, I even wrote about my own weight loss after learning how to look at and feel differently about food.
That piece allowed me to interview the owners of Honey Hi and learn that acquiring a comprehensive understanding of food was key to finding health for both of them. Though, the biggest understanding the two women have come to is one I've found crucial in my own eating-disorder recovery: Healing isn't linear.
After making a concerted effort to present myself, completely openly, as a woman with an eating disorder (instead of hiding from it, for fear it'll make me seem weak), I finally feel comfortable with the pieces I'm producing. I'm pasting a little piece of me into every post, making sure I don't misrepresent my own struggles. Finding balance is never easy, but honesty is always the best place to start.